buffetbevIf you like to get all or most of your meal items at the buffet, in one shot, some cruise ships are making it difficult to do so.  On some ships, there is one thing that is lacking, and that can help with this problem:

TRAYS!

We recently returned from a cruise ship which did not offer trays for passengers’ use at the buffet.  One passenger joked that it was because there was a “Server Convention” on board.  Very clever…I thought!  Well, there are some very valid reasons for eliminating trays:

  1. More room at your tables
  2. Less weight on the ship
  3. Less to clean
  4. More room for those in line at the buffet, and
  5. Less cost for the cruise line.

Yes, these make sense, and I’m sure there are others.  But, not all of us are servers, and can balance a plate on one arm, while carrying a bowl of something in one hand, and a beverage in the other.  In addition, going back and forth (and perhaps waiting for others in your party to do the same) means your food may get cold.  Also, what if you want take a bunch of stuff back to your stateroom?  We missed our trays!

I’m not suggesting you pack a couple of trays to take with you (maybe we will start a trend, LOL!), but there is something much simpler you can do.  Order room service.  Then, when you are finished, put all of the items outside for pick-up, but KEEP THE TRAY!  Take the tray with you to the buffet area.  We did this on our last cruise and we got more of the “Mr. Spock Raised Eyebrow” looks from the staff than we did from fellow passengers.  Remember to take the tray back to the room when you are done!  Tacky…a little…but we wanted to consume our food while at its warmest!

Enjoy your next cruise everybody…we will be back soon; Cheers!

There was an article recently about what people felt were their most awkward financial moments.  Having a credit card rejected came in at number one.  It got me thinking about awkward moments I’ve had while cruising.

It was a HAL Eurodam cruise I took, during it’s inaugural season.  That week, a couple of things became apparent that made me feel awkward; probably would not affect many, but since I’m a Customer Experience person, they bothered me.

The first was when a crew member mentioned (to me) that the ship was sailing some 90 crew members short. We did not even ask for this information; he overheard us talking at a table in the buffet area.  We had a great time, but did experience some uncharacteristically sub-par service (by HAL’s standards).  It was good to know that the shortage is probably what contributed to how long things took that week.  However, I’m not quite sure it was right of the crew member to spill this information to passengers.  If we were told, I’m sure others were as well.  We never said anything, to anybody, about what we were told.

The second item was a different story, and made some of us feel uncomfortable.  A supervisor was loudly reprimanding a subordinate, also in the buffet area, in front of everybody!  This is a no-no, and behavior such as this should never take place in front of your customers; it can lend to poor perception. And, perception is everything!  This time, we did say something to the hotel director.  The director thanked us, and we actually received a letter later that evening!

Just as with an issue you may have with food in a restaurant, a situation which makes you feel uncomfortable should be reported to the proper department.  If it bothers you, it is probably affecting somebody else. Lastly, if the condition continues, and goes unreported, it may never improve.  Simply by doing this, you can directly have an affect on creating a positive experience not only for yourself, but for future cruisers!

princessserverHave dining room services gone down hill, or does it just seem that way?  Did services suffer when gratuities became automatic?  I for one think that cruise ship dining room services are still several notches above average.  And yes, it may vary by cruise line, as the training does start from the top.  But, before you allow this aspect of a cruise affect your Cruise Experience, remember some of these factors:

Casual, schedule-free dining:  Did you choose the “old-school”, early/late seating, main dining room option?  It’s difficult for any server to get to know your dining and drinking habits when you have different servers, in different dining venues, at different times, each night.

While dining room talent is still excellent, cruise ships have grown in size and scope, and the number of ships per company seem to keep growing.  Fifteen to twenty years ago was a different story, and the top talent wasn’t spread as thinly as it is today.

Speaking of cruise ship size and scope, that alone makes it more challenging for the servers to perform perfectly, even if you sit with the same team every single night.  It’s simply more to do; more to remember; more to organize.  It is still incredible to think about how many people these teams serve every day.

The serving staff is multi-tasking more than ever before.  How often do you see your server from the dining room, during a different part of the day, at another dining venue…like the buffet?  Pretty often!  I realize we pay for our Cruise Experiences, but the servers are people too, and their duties are not easy!

I’m not making excuses for anybody…there are some servers that should be doing something else, somewhere else.  But there is no doubt that as dining options change, the services of today will always be different from the services and experiences of tomorrow.

The Oasis of the Seas dwarfs everything as she exits from Port Everglades.

The Oasis of the Seas dwarfs everything as she exits from Port Everglades.

Did you know that at Double Occupancy, Royal Caribbean’s Oasis-class ships hold 5,400 passengers? How about 6,296 at MAXIMUM capacity?  Now, add 2,394 crew (as of July 2012) and we have a potential grand total of 8,690 people on board!  Currently, at a popular, large-scale community in South Florida (where I am part of the Management Team) the population hovers around 8,500, which also happens to be about a quarter of the city’s population!

Now, we all have different takes on what constitutes a good, great and/or outstanding cruise experience.  From my perspective, I had an outstanding experience on the Allure of the Seas in September of 2011.  A couple of minor issues, like watered down coffee and a very curt instructor on the surf rider, but nothing that took away from my experience.  My biggest concern heading in was the crowded feeling I was “sure to endure” on the Allure…but it never happened!

It never happened at the port (we were on board in ten minutes) and it never felt crowded on board.  The worst it ever got was during the flash mob class in the Promenade, but even then, Allure’s midsection was wide enough to get through if you chose.  Buffet Lines?  Never a problem, and I thought it was only because that there were SO MANY dining options that it spread everybody to different areas.  While this was true, there was another reason.

SHAPE RECOGNITION CAMERAS.  According to an article on “seasiteblog.com“, passengers never have to wait to be seated at ANY of the 24 dining areas, thanks to BIOMETRICS.  The Oasis-class ships employ shape-recognition cameras, all of which count and analyze foot traffic.  Then, this information is sent in, REAL-TIME, to some 300 interactive boards throughout the ship.

In addition, the showtime reservations, and scanning processes, for all of the shows (and certain activities) are extremely civilized, assuring everyone that there will be a seat available for them as long as they show up before the shows/events begin.  Then, crew will allow the stand-by line to enter, and fill the open seats.